After surrendering 10 points as the result of miscues, the Elder Panthers (2-0) buckled down and put a beat down on Lakota West (0-2) 35-10.
Elder led just a 14-10 lead with 1:30 left before halftime when quarterback Ben Gramke led a beautiful "two-minute offense" to ultimately put the game on ice. Gramke threw the first of his three touchdown passes at the end of the seven-play drive to Max Mazza with 2.5 seconds left on the clock.
After Elder took the opening kickoff of the game, the Panthers hit pay dirt first with a six-yard touchdown run by senior Cody Fox.
With just over a minute left to play in the first quarter, Elder made the first of two costly errors and the Firebirds made them pay for it both times. Peair Foster stripped Elder's A.J. Burdine of the ball and the fumble was recovered by Lakota West linebacker Cole Stalker. The turnover setup a 29-yard field goal by Justin Martin to cut the lead to 7-3 early in the second quarter.
--Postgame: Ben Gramke, Elder
Fox, who rushed for 83 yards on 23 carries, scored his second rushing touchdown to push the lead back out to 14-3.
On the ensuing possession, Lakota West was forced to punt but Elder muffed it and the Firebirds Nick Bengal recovered it on the Elder 38-yard line. On the very next play, quarterback Tyler Jones threw a deep pass that Kayuane Ross caught in the end zone for a touchdown to cut the lead to 14-10.
Lakota West wasted an impressive performance by Marcus Davis. The senior running back rushed for 196 yards on 22 carries. The impressive part of that feat was that as a team the Firebirds only gained 240 of total offense.
Gramke threw a pair of second half touchdowns, a 15-yarder to Jeff Vorheer and one for 29 yards to Joe Ramstetter.
The best play of the night for Gramke, who passed for 293 yards, was not even for one of his three touchdowns. After scrambling away from the Lakota West pass rush toward the sideline, Gramke threw across his body to the middle of the field where he connected with Mazza on a 55-yard completion. Mazza was the top pass catcher of the night with six receptions for 119 yards.
Elder has a very tough test next week for its home opener against Louisville Trinity, the defending 6A champion in Kentucky. Lakota West will try to earn its first win of the season on the road at Anderson on Friday night.
*Written by: Brady Laber, TriStateFootball.com